There is, in this astrologer’s humble opinion, no finer novel written in the English language, than Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native. It surpasses in its sublime blend of Neptunian sensitivity, Plutonic tragedy and Uranian brilliance his better known later works, such as Jude the Obscure (or Jude the Obscene as it was known contemporarily for its frank sexual themes: some book dealers would sell copies in a brown paper bag) and it (again in my own opinion only) dwarfs the comparatively staid literary proficiencies of Dickens and the like. Hardy wrote Victorian England’s Iliads, Dickens its Daily Mail editorial, there is simply no reasonable common-ground.
Jude was so badly received for its lascivious undercurrents, its flippant treatment of lax virtue and its brutal commentary on social deprivation (which is shocking still to this day), that Hardy gave up novel writing for good; but he had a peculiar penchant for testing the boundaries of acceptable content in his work, and then seemed to become especially offended at the reaction he provoked when he successfully crossed it! His greatest works were always accompanied by themes of such Hadean darkness and despair that they make poignant and harrowing reading to this day, and the vivacity and power of the Arcadian landscapes he painted with his words are quite haunting in their potency; certainly when compared with the infernal, hellish visions of the slums and tenements of the city that he conjured; here is a writer who I believe was using his gift as a form of advocacy; Thomas Hardy was not only a master storyteller, a keen psychologist and a passionate celebrant of human love who rebelled against the cloying strictures of a repressed societal tradition; he was also our country’s first ecological activist.
His astrology is a treasure trove of delights, a mine of insights, that when viewed in context with his writing style, gives an excellent insight into the practical application of astrologic craft. Here are my main delineations:
- For a writer there is not a great deal of 3rd house emphasis, but the chart ruler – the Sun – is in Mercury ruled Gemini and the 3rd house ruler is Venus in nature-loving Taurus. This explains then his ability to write about natural, earthy themes with such charming eloquence.
- Moon, Mercury and Venus are all placed in their domiciles, giving power to the emotions and memory, the intellect and writing ability and the aesthetic sense and the love nature.
- Similarly there is a delightful mutual reception between Uranus and Neptune, giving a genius for appreciating the divine.
- Look to the Quindecile from Venus to Jupiter, which always concerns the joy of love; here then is an obsession about the joy of love.
- Then note that Jupiter in Scorpio in the 5th house is at the focal point of a Yod from the Sun and Midheaven. Thus the products of his creativity (thus his novels) were never truly satisfactory to him in his career aspirations, or in his self-assessment of his true ability. Here is a ‘could do better’ aspect pattern that with Scorpio involved seeks to be more penetrating, more insightful, more piercing. Note just how stressed Jupiter is here in the 5th house of creativity; he needed to express his power (Scorpio) with words (5th).
- Then see the Quindeciles from Saturn to Mercury and Mars. Here there is a conjunction of Mars with Mercury, which creates a rather devilish mindset, a quarrelsome tendency that in the 11th rather speaks of a wish to pick a fight with society at large. Then consider the quindecile in that context: Saturn speaks to the mores and formalities of novels (in the 5th), thus he rebels against the conventions of novel-writing and uses his words to pick a fight with the world.
- Chiron conjunct Moon in the 12th speaks of some secret sensitivity to situations concerning the women in his own life; it suggests that the tragedy he wrote of so skilfully was more than a professional affectation.
- Now consider the Midheaven and the career: ruled by Mars, which conjunct Mercury in its own sign will be somewhat overshadowed by the Mercurial; Mars in Gemini too gives an energy of ideas and a passion for communication, and in the 11th a dream or aspiration of writing.
- The closest aspect is always telling; in this case Sun sextile Midheaven at a mere minute from true partile. This blends the self-image of a writer (Sun in Gemini) with the Career path, Sun too rules the chart, so it is doubly powerful.
- And finally, consider Pluto, menacingly ensconced firmly in the heart of the 10th. This speaks to the ability to involve tragedy in the career and too it rather underlines some of the highly Plutonic and charged transformations that Hardy himself was required to undergo as a writer. His first wife died suddenly and he stopped writing novels altogether; both Jude and Tess were greeted with public outrage and denigration and the themes of death and inevitability were so fundamentally woven into his works that his style became synonymous with Pluto; Hardy was the master of tragedy.